The Cat Management Act 2009 and Cat Management Regulations 2012 have imposed conditions on cat owners in an attempt to deal with the problems of feral cats, and to encourage responsible ownership. They came into effect on July 1st, 2012. Cats are classified by the Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) as a priority species for management and a harmful invasive species, as they have serious impacts on native wildlife when both domesticated and when they have turned feral. Feral cats are typically much larger and more aggressive than domestic cats, and can destroy or compete with important, vulnerable fauna, such as quolls and bettongs.
The purposes of the Cat Management Act 2009 are to:
- Promote the responsible ownership and welfare of cats, including the desexing and microchipping of domestic cats
- Provide for the effective management of cats, in particular allowing humane handling and management of unidentified, stray and feral cats; and
- Reduce the negative effects of cats on the environment.
The Cat Management Regulations 2012 are enacted under that legislation. The Regulations detail:
- cat management facilities, such as cat shelters, and their operations;
- microchipping and desexing of cats;
- other requirements for cat owners, such as health checks; and
- registration for cat breeders.
Microchipping and desexing
Cat owners must ensure that any cat in their care, over the age of 6 months of age is implanted with a microchip (s12, Cat Management Act; Reg 14, Cat Management Regulations). There are exceptions where a veterinary surgeon certifies that this would adversely impact on the health and welfare of the cat. Details that must be entered into the microchip database include such things as name, residential address and contact number of the cat owner, the name of the cat, the breed, whether the cat has been desexed, its age and colouration (Reg 15).
Desexing is required where the cat is more than 6 months of age except where a vet certifies that the procedure will interfere with the health and welfare of the cat, the cat is for the purpose of breeding by a registered breeder or the cat is a prescribed cat (s14). The Regulations define a prescribed cat as cats registered with an approved cat show organisation (Reg 18). Desexing must be done by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
As a first step to reduce the number of unwanted cats that are euthanased each year, it is now an offence to breed cats unless the owner is a registered breeder. A person who seeks registration as a cat breeder must make an application to DPIPWE to be approved. The Secretary of DPIPWE has the power to refuse, approve and revoke cat breeder registrations. If a person is a member of a cat organisation that has been acknowledged by the Secretary of DPIPWE, they are taken to be a registered breeder. Everyone else must make an application for approval (s30). The Secretary must be satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person, and that it is appropriate in all the circumstances to grant the application.
Anyone can sell or give away a cat but the animal must be at least 8 weeks of age, microchipped and desexed (unless a care agreement has been entered into), wormed and vaccinated (s15). Cat sales between registered breeders and genuine show cats will be exempt.
Feral and stray cats
Where feral and stray cats are found on ‘Prohibited Areas’ such as Crown land, private timber reserves, reserved land, private land subject to a conservation covenant, or State Forests or Reserves they may be the subject of cat management actions, which include the humane destruction, trapping and desexing of cats found in those areas (ss18-21). Local councils may declare certain areas to be prohibited areas or cat management areas (s21), under sections 19 and 20 of the Act.
Feral and stray cats may also be controlled on rural land and in remote areas as outlined below.
Seized, Unclaimed and Surrendered Cats
Cat management facilities will scan cats to discover microchipping to attempt return of a cat to its owner (s23). However, an aggressive cat, or one that an operator at the facility believes on reasonable grounds to pose a danger to health and safety will not be scanned (s22(3)). If a cat is to be reclaimed, cat management facility operators can microchip and desex cats (s24(2)), except where there is an exemption under the Act, such as for cats kept by registered cat breeders (s24(4)).
If a cat remains unclaimed, whether or not it was microchipped, or it has been surrendered, cat management facilities may find the cat another home, offer the cat for sale or cause the cat to be humanely destroyed (s25).
Destruction of Cats
The destruction of cats may take place in the context of cat management programs (ss17-21), on some private property, or in the context of seized, unclaimed and surrendered cats. An operator of a cat management facility may humanely destroy a cat, or cause a cat to be humanely destroyed if they have a reasonable belief that the cat has cause or is likely to cause serious injury to a person, another animal or itself; the cat is not microchipped is unfit to be placed or offered as a domestic pet; or is not microchipped and the facility is unable to accommodate the cat (s26). This means that microchipped, unclaimed cats can remain indefinitely in a facility if no suitable home is found for them.
Powers of local councils and inspectors
Councils can make declarations that class areas of land as prohibited land or cat management areas (s21). Authorised persons, which include police officers, or persons authorised under the Animal Welfare Act, the Dog Control Act, or the Cat Management Act, have the power to:
- enter, search and inspect buildings;
- search for and seize any cat on premises, which they have lawfully entered;
- set traps on premises lawfully entered;
- examine and scan cats for the presence of a microchip;
- desex a cat;
- microchip a cat; and
- transfer a cat to a cat management facility.
Other powers of authorised persons are listed at section 7 of the Act. Generally, these are powers related to enforcing compliance with legislation and gathering evidence of any breach of the Act.
Powers of land owners to manage cats on property
Land owners engaged in primary production relating to livestock on rural land have the power to trap, seize, or humanely destroy cats found on their private land. They may also trap, seize or humanely destroy cats found on land that is more than one kilometre away from any place genuinely used as a place of residence, In these circumstances, a land owner can destroy the cat, or return it to its owner (if known), or arrange for the cat to be taken to a cat management facility (s17).
The Act states that cats are not to be abandoned. The penalty for doing so is a fine of 20 penalty units, which currently stands at a fine of over $2000 (s37). The provided alternative is to surrender a cat or cats to a cat management facility (s36). There may be some fees associated with doing so. Cats are also not to be offered as lucky door prizes or a raffle prize or any game of chance. A fine of up to 10 penalty units is associated with breaching this provision (s38).
Cat Management Facilities
In Hobart, the cat management facilities are facilities operated by the RSPCA or the Hobart Cat Centre Inc Cat management facilities are also local council-run facilities with the capacity to handle and hold cats.